Christians have described God's call to mission in different ways
Many Christians have seen personal salvation as the heart of mission
They put the accent on what Christ has done to save people from sin, and on the Spirit's work of enabling believers to become more holy. In addition to loving other people and caring for creation, a key part of holy living is to proclaim the 'good news'. This becomes a prime task of the church.
The kingdom of God is a key concept in the New Testament
It was the core motif of Jesus' earthly ministry. Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom – God's complete rule over creation – and demonstrated what the kingdom would be like. The Spirit remains active in the world, making the kingdom visible by helping humans and creation to flourish. The church's mission is to be part of the Spirit's work, bringing change to society.
Missio Dei, 'the mission of God', has been an influential concept in recent years
Mission is part of God's essential character. The vitality and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit overflow into mission – a mission to create, sustain and redeem. The church becomes more like God when it joins the mission of God.
These descriptions of the church's mission can be seen as different entry points to a vital and multi-faceted dimension of the Christian life. Each description starts with one aspect of God's call to mission and potentially leads to the others. You might start with salvation, but that will take you to the kingdom of God and the mission of God.
Taken together, these entry points provide compelling reasons for the church to put mission at the centre of its life. As William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury, once said: 'The church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.'
Fresh expressions are pioneering new responses to this call to mission
Though hugely varied, fresh expressions may grow out of some form of loving service, from an after-school club, to working with homeless people, to providing an opportunity for people to express their spirituality, to launching a campaign for justice in the neighbourhood.
Community may form among those involved. Friendships within the group may provide the context for individuals - if they want - to explore the Christian faith and become disciples of Christ, all in a way that fits their culture. A new expression of church may begin to emerge.
A Methodist minister in Liverpool walked the streets of an area where the church had closed, talking to people. Gradually, a new, inclusive community arose based on baking bread. As people made bread together they shared their life stories. Now worship is also an integral part of these 'bread church' gatherings.
- Story: Somewhere Else